Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tales of Xillia 2 - Should you get it?

After a few year wait, Tales of Xillia 2 has been released outside of Japan, and with it come a lot of questions. Just what is Xillia 2? Is it worth getting if you have the original Xillia? Is it a spin off title, or a full fledged Tales of? Well, to state the obvious, it is a sequel to Tales of Xillia, and it is a "full" Tales of title. It is considered to be a part of the main line of games (unlike Symphonia's sequel), and offers a full Tales of experience. As for if it is worth it or not, well, that one is going to be up to you, and we hope to help you make that decision.

If you've been following the series at all, then you most likely have heard how Xillia 2 has tons of re-used content from the first Xillia, and that may put a lot of people off. Those who have Xillia 1 may find themselves questioning if it is worth it, while those who have never played the original will wonder if they should just play the sequel instead. Well, we are going to help you decide for yourself by going over some of the major differences between the games, as well as what is the same. Before we continue however, we want you to keep in mind that this is NOT a review, but simply something to help you understand Xillia 2 and help you decide if it is worth looking into or not (although that doesn't mean a full review won't be added in the near future). So, with that being said, let's get started.

1. Is this a game for fans or newcomers?

Tales of Xillia 2 is a sequel, I don't think we can make that any clearer. It takes place a year after the events of the first game, and basically continues the story. Yes there is a new story arc, but old characters and story plots do make their way into it, or rather, continue with it. It isn't required you play the first, but you may have a hard time understanding the main plot if you don't.

2. The darker Tone

One thing that really stands out about Xillia 2 is the game's darker tone. While Tales of games tend to have mature themes from time to time, they never really take it too far. Sure characters die, bad things happen, and characters struggle with issues which occur during the course of the game, but things never really go too far. Most violence is seen only during battle, and blood is rarely seen. Welp, not this time around.
Xillia 2's story is quite a bit darker compared to others in the series. While the game still does have comedy, some of what you see in the game may actually shock long time fans. For example, in one of the early cutscenes we actually see a sword get thrown through the head of a "main" character. They hit the ground dead, and the sword jams into the wall behind them covered in blood. Just moments before the scene a terrorist attack leads to mass murder with dead bloody bodies covering the ground as well. While the blood and violence isn't enough to give the game an M rating (it is still T), it still takes things a lot farther than what we've seen in the series to date.

3. The Power of choice

Another shocking change to Xillia 2 is the power of choice. While past games (such as Symphonia) sometimes allowed you to reply to questions with your own answer, the system was never really put to good use. A side event here, a side event there, and that's about it. With Xillia 2 however, you are Ludgar's (the main character's) voice. He rarely talks, with only saying simple things such as "what," "yeah," "no," and so on. Whenever he speaks, be it in cutscenes or during skits, you choose what he says by either pressing L1 or R1. Unlike most games with a silent protagonist, his replies are actually full sentences (rather than a few words), so you do get to see what he says, you just can't actually hear it. During cutscenes this system is taken a bit farther with you choosing what you want to do. Sometimes these actions can result in some flashy fighting scenes (which are pretty impressive and a huge step forward for the Tales of series), while others may lead to a more peaceful solution. For the most part these options just allow you to change the cutscenes to your liking, but later on you do have the ability to change the course of the story to receive different endings.

4. New Characters and Battle System

Before we say anything more, don't worry, ALL of the old party members make their return, but some new ones have been added as well. Without going into spoilers, there are technically only a few new characters to play as, but one of which (Ludgar) has more than one fighting style. Although Ludgar starts the game with twin blades, he soon receives twin guns, a large hammer, and he also gains the ability to enter a special mode where he uses a lance like weapon (which makes sense, considering his last name is Kresnik--which is a name that played a major role in Xillia 1). These fighting styles can be switched to at any time during battle, making Ludgar one of the most diverse characters in Tales of history. These aren't the only changes to the battle system however...

The L1 button now has a new function. Before it allowed you to switch to your alternate set of artes (which were set to the O button and right analog stick), but now it allows you to use alternate versions of your main X attacks, as well as use a side step ability which is very similar to the one seen in Tales of Graces f. The changes to the L1 button also go along with other core gameplay changes, such as the new stagger system (where you can break the guard of an enemy by using melee attacks and following it up with an arte), as well as the new elemental weakness system. On top of that there are a few other improvements made to the battle system, but to put it all simply, Xillia 2's battle system is in fact an improvement, and after using it for awhile, you may find it hard returning to Xillia 1.

5. New Level Up System

Sorry Xillia fans, the old orb system is gone. Rather than leveling up, gaining skill points, and then spending said points on orbs to unlock stat increases and abilities, now you level and use a NEW orb system for your skills... And it isn't quite as deep.

By equipping different orbs to your characters, they gain the ability to absorb different types of elements, and these elements are used to teach you your skills. While the game makes the process extremely confusing, it really isn't. To put it simply, each battle gives you element points, and the orb you have equip changes what type of element it is. Different skills you can learn require a set number of element points to unlock, and once you've got enough of that element, you do just that; you unlock the skill/ability for use. Basically it is a lot like the weapon system or title system seen in Vesperia and Graces f respectively. You equip the orb, get points for the skills in that current orb, you learn the skills, and then switch to the next orb again. That's all there is to the system, and it does offer less customization. As for the skills and artes you learn however, they work the very same. Skills require a set number of points to equip (meaning you can't equip every skill), and you can set your artes to shortcuts to use in battle.

On another note, elements can be picked up in the field as well, so you don't have to always fight to become stronger.

6. The Job Board
Tales of Games have hundreds of side quests and sub events which can be missed, many of which offer key insight to the story. Well, missing them has just become a lot harder. Now all sub events and side quests are listed on a quest board the moment you can do them. This "Job Board" becomes key when it comes to making money, and it is something you'll have to use often. It is also where you can learn about and hunt the elite monsters (which you may remember from the first game), and make a heck of a lot of money fast... Which you may not realize it, but you'll need to.

7. Travel Restrictions

Ludgar owes 15 million, and he isn't going anywhere until he pays it off... And yes, you have to actually pay it off. By doing quests and paying off your debt bit by bit, more areas become open for you to visit. At first this system may sound annoying, and may seem like it'll take a long time, but that really isn't the case. Hunting the elite monsters will get you the cash you need, so don't let this feature turn you off.

8. The Chapter System

Xillia 2 progresses with a chapter system. Every key part of the story is considered to be a chapter, with breaks in between where you can work on side quests, and do whatever it is you want to do. Really it isn't much different than just playing Xillia 1 without seeing a number stating your progress, but that doesn't mean it is completely the same. While the main plot is, well, the main plot, there are also character episodes you can play which show just what the main characters from the first Xillia have been up to. These episodes are optional (if you really want to, you can just switch back to Ludgar's story), but they also add a lot to the game, as well as bring closure to Xillia 1. Once again if you're a Tales of fan, think of it like the Character Quests from Tales of Legendia; except rather than taking place of the second half of the game, they happen during the main plot.

9. Other New Features

Without going into too much detail (to avoid spoilers), Xillia 2 has a lot of new features. There's a new jogging mechanic you can unlock, there are a lot more extra things you can do (they brought back some series staples which were not found in Xillia 1), there's a new battle challenge system (where doing different things in battle unlocks titles), a new cat item finding system (which lets you send cats out into the world to find items for you), as well as many other new features which weren't found in Xillia 1. Existing features have been tweaked as well, so along with everything else mentioned above, there is a lot of new content to see here. Although, what we are about to tell you may turn you away...

10. Reused Content

This game is Xillia 2, and as such, almost everything from Xillia 1 has been either flat out reused, or improved on. This includes some bosses, and even the entire world. Yes, that's right, you'll be revisiting it all. Everything from the first game is here, with only a handful of new towns and areas for you to visit. Now this may turn a lot of you away from the game, but you really shouldn't let it. 

For some of you, you may love returning to this world you already know; sometimes it is nice to jump back into something you love, only to see it has also changed. Tales of Xillia 2 is Xillia, but you can think of it as the second half of the story, with improved features. The ending of Xillia was only the halfway point of this grand story, and if you should get it or not really comes down to if you liked Xillia or not. Do you want to keep going with the story, or do you want to pretend like it is over and just move on? That's what you should ask yourself. It may have many returning areas, but what else would you expect from part 2? Sure it would have been nice to explore more of the world, but it really doesn't hurt the overall game.

Once again, ask yourself. "Did I like Tales of Xillia?" If the answer is yes, then Xillia 2 is worth checking out. If the answer is no, that doesn't mean you should still turn a blind eye to this one. Who knows, maybe the improvements and the new story will make you like it. That's a risk you have to decide to take for yourself.

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